Mu­sic is the best medicine

The doc­tor who formed Pro Mu­sica Divinia Or­ches­tra speaks about the group and its con­cert tonight

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODTUNES -

THIS MONTH brings not only the first con­cert of the new sea­son from the Pro Mu­sica Div­ina Or­ches­tra, it also marks the maiden award of the bur­sary for promis­ing young tal­ent spon­sored by this en­sem­ble.

This year’s re­cip­i­ent is ma­tric­u­lant Daniel Fisher, a tenor em­bark­ing on his first year of study at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town, un­der the tu­ition of As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Vir­ginia Davids.

Looking back on 12 years of pas­sion, ef­fort and en­ergy re­quired to es­tab­lish the Pro Mu­sica Div­ina Or­ches­tra, con­duc­tor-com­poser Dr Steven van der Merwe re­calls: “I was new to con­duct­ing then and formed the en­sem­ble us­ing mainly free­lancers, who seemed happy to con­trib­ute. To­day we have a strong corps of mu­si­cians; there are 17 play­ers in toto, 13 strings, two horns and two flutes.”

The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor driv­ing the or­ches­tra is a com­mit­ment to keep mu­sic alive, par­tic­u­larly in the south penin­sula.

Van der Merwe, who has a med­i­cal prac­tice in Si­mon’s Town, is em­phatic that mu­sic and medicine are in­ter­de­pen­dent: “You can­not have one without the other – mu­sic heals the mind, medicine heals the body.

“In fact, that is an am­bi­tion of mine: to ex­plore the el­e­ment of spir­i­tual well-be­ing pro­moted by mu­sic. I have a fair amount to do with on­col­ogy at present and the heal­ing power of mu­sic is re­mark­able.”

The or­ches­tra’s last con­cert fea­tured English com­posers (El­gar, Brit­ten, Delius and War­lock), and Van der Merwe says a num­ber of peo­ple who at­tended said how spir­i­tu­ally sat­is­fy­ing they had found the mu­sic, some of which was un­fa­mil­iar to them.

Like many pro­gram­mers, Van der Merwe laments the con­ser­va­tive na­ture of con­cert­go­ers, who tend to shun a per­for­mance which in­cludes new or rarely heard works. The first con­cert of 2010 runs no risk in this depart­ment, as it fea­tures com­po­si­tions by Bach, Mozart and Schu­bert.

“I chose JC Bach’s Sin­fo­nia Opus 3, No 1, paired with Mozart’s Vi­o­lin Con­certo No 5 and Mozart’s Sym­phony No 29, since the lat­ter works clearly show the in­flu­ence of the for­mer – Bach was Mozart’s teacher.

“Schu­bert’s Ave Maria was added be­cause our first bur­sar, Daniel, is mak­ing a guest ap­pear­ance and that piece suits his voice.”

On the sub­ject of the new bur­sary, Van der Merwe says: “Brenda Feldt­mann, di­rec­tor of the Sil­ver­mine Mu­sic Academy, ap­proached us about rais­ing funds to as­sist gifted stu­dents, and we de­cided that in fu­ture the pro­ceeds from our Jan­uary con­cert would go to what is now the Pro Mu­sica Div­ina Bur­sary Con­cert Fund.

“Brenda is well placed to iden­tify po­ten­tial re­cip­i­ents and the first one is Daniel, a lo­cal lad who sang the lead in his school play, Grease. Ob­vi­ously from that to a ca­reer in opera is a sig­nif­i­cant step de­mand­ing a lot of train­ing and hard work, but he ap­pears to have the nec­es­sary ded­i­ca­tion as well as tal­ent and de­serves a chance.”

Con­certs by the Pro Mu­sica Div­ina Or­ches­tra have moved from venue to venue, but Van der Merwe has iden­ti­fied St Nor­bert’s Pri­ory in Kom­metjie as “home” to the en­sem­ble. “It’s per­fect for a larger-scale con­cert such as this one, with good acous­tics and plenty of safe park­ing. We’re start­ing early – at 6pm – so that con­cert­go­ers can so­cialise or go to din­ner af­ter­wards.”

The doc­tor is en­rolled for a Mas­ter’s de­gree in com­po­si­tion, un­der the highly praised men­tor­ship of PeterLouis van Dijk. He also has a num­ber of com­po­si­tions to his credit. Be­tween mu­sic and medicine, Van der Merwe has his hands full.

The Mozart & Bach con­cert from the Pro Mu­sica Div­ina Or­ches­tra is at 6pm tonight at St Nor­bert’s Pri­ory, Rubbi Road, Kom­metjie. For tick­ets, phone 021 786 2133 or 021 786 1697.

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